Developmental timing of trauma exposure relative to puberty and the nature of psychopathology among adolescent girls

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Abstract

Objective Increased neuroplasticity and neural development during puberty provide a context for which stress and trauma can have dramatic and long-lasting effects on psychological systems; therefore, this study was designed to determine whether exposure to potentially traumatic events during puberty uniquely predicts adolescent girls' psychopathology. Because neural substrates associated with different forms of psychopathology seemingly develop at different rates, the possibility that the developmental timing of trauma relative to puberty predicts the nature of psychopathology (posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], depressive, and anxiety disorders) was examined. Method A subset of 2,899 adolescent girls from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication-Adolescent Supplement who completed the study 2+ years postmenarche was selected. Past-year psychiatric disorders and reports of age of trauma exposure were assessed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Developmental stages were defined as the 2 years after the year of menarche ("postpuberty"), 3 years before and year of menarche ("puberty"), 2 to 6 years before the puberty period ("grade school"), and 4 to 5 years after birth ("infancy-preschool"). Results Compared to other developmental periods, trauma during puberty conferred significantly more risk (50.47% of model R2) for girls' past-year anxiety disorder diagnoses (primarily social phobia), whereas trauma during the grade school period conferred significantly more risk (47.24% of model R2) for past-year depressive disorder diagnoses. Recency of trauma best predicted past-year PTSD diagnoses. Conclusion Supporting rodent models, puberty may be a sensitive period for the impact of trauma on girls' development of an anxiety disorder. Trauma prepuberty or postpuberty distinctly predicts depression or PTSD, suggesting differential etiological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-32.e1
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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